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In The Winter Garden

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This story is No. 6 in the series "Return of The Key.". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Returnverse story. Something very strange is happening in Éowyn's garden - could Dawn/Tindómë be the key to the mystery...?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Lord of the Rings > Dawn-Centered(Recent Donor)curiouslywombatFR13921,5535338,56420 Aug 1017 Sep 10Yes

A Place That Grows Winter.

“Nana, if Lady Éowyn is very hot she should come into the Winter Garden where the ice and snow are.”

The ensuing conversation was somewhat confusing and frustrating.

Tindómë started by agreeing that, should Lady Éowyn still be suffering from hot flashes in the winter, going outdoors when it was snowy and icy would help; it wouldn’t even need to be in the Winter Garden.

But Haldirin insisted that it was always winter in the Winter Garden… at least it was almost always winter. Sometimes when Nana and Lady Éowyn came in, too, they brought the summer with them… He thought that this must be Lady Éowyn’s doing – in some way related to her being too hot.

Tindómë’s next reaction was that she should tell him off for telling tall stories – but, instead, she tried to explain that, although imagining that it was always winter in the Winter Garden was fun, it wouldn’t, really, help Éowyn.

Haldirin looked at her with a puzzled expression. She could feel, through the parental bond, that he was getting upset.

“But… Nana… I don’t pretend… I like it when it is snowy in the Winter Garden. I like a place that grows winter.”

Where now? It made sense, if you grow roses in the Rose Garden, and herbs in the Herb Garden, that you might grow winter in the Winter Garden, but how to explain the difference between real things and imagined things if he didn’t know, yet?

Rumil sat, very quietly, but looking closely at Haldirin.

“Haldirin-nín,” he said eventually, “would it be winter if I came with you?”

‘What a weird question,’ Tindómë thought, but had learnt that her husband rarely asked questions without a point, so waited.

Their son sat, head to one side, for a minute.

“I… I think it might be. But the other elfling might be frightened of you, Ada. Then… then I think it might be summer…”

‘Oh no!’ Tindómë thought, ‘perhaps we had better go back to Eryn Ithil quickly – he must be lonely after all. He’s invented an invisible companion!”

She remembered having an invisible friend when she was about six and had a feeling, now, that it was because Buffy had decided that Dawn was too little to have tagging along or to play with. (Probably, she thought in a sort of mental aside, a good job it wasn’t a couple of years later or Buffy’d have thought I was being haunted, or picked on by a demon, or something!)

Haldirin must be reacting to Elboron’s decision that he was too little to play with by inventing another elfling.

She so must discuss it with Rumil, but not right now; he was talking to Haldirin again.

“I would like to come and see the snow. Perhaps, if Lady Éowyn always brings the summer with her, I can come with you and Nana could stay with Lady Éowyn.”

Tindómë thought he was ignoring the ‘other elfling’, but he went on.

“I did not know there were more elflings here, little one. Is it a little ellon or a little elleth?”

Haldirin relaxed again; Tindómë could feel it as much as see it.

“He is an ellon, Ada.”

He would be, Tindómë thought; no-one, as far as she knew, ever seems to have an opposite sex invisible companion.

“What is the little ellon called, Haldirin-nín?”

“I don’t know Ada – I’ve never asked him.”

So, not a made-up friend that he’d got very clearly in his mind then, that must be good, his mother thought.

“Well then,” Rumil said, in his ‘end of discussion’ voice, “tomorrow you and I will wait until Nana keeps the very hot Lady Éowyn away, and we will go together to the Winter Garden and ask the ellon what his name is.”

As Haldirin nodded, and bent his head back to his drawing, Tindómë tried not to laugh; she must explain to Rumil the other meaning of ‘hot’ when applied to a person of the opposite sex…


Rumil had never heard of an elfling having an imaginary friend – but then, he pointed out, he had always had Orophin around. He said, though, that Haldirin had seemed to be quite serious about it being winter in the Winter Garden – which is why he had asked if it would be winter if he went himself.

After all, if Haldirin had been making it up he would, logically, have said it wouldn’t be winter if Rumil went with him; just as it wasn’t if Tindómë or Éowyn did…

He said that he remembered Haldir offering, in a totally serious voice, to come and look at the place where Rumil had seen an oliphaunt when he was about fourteen or fifteen – only a little older than Haldirin. (Haldirin is currently the equivalent of a three to four year old human; Rumil would then have been the equivalent of a five year old.)

Haldir had come with him, walked all around, declared that, sadly, there was no sign of an oliphaunt, not even an oliphaunt footprint. He hadn’t told Rumil off for making the oliphaunt up; but the imaginary oliphaunt had just faded away.

Even now it was unusual for Rumil to talk very much about his oldest brother but, Tindómë thought, his own parenting style probably owed quite a lot to that warrior brother suddenly forced into ‘fatherhood’.

“Although,” Rumil continued, “we must never forget that sometimes strange things do happen... if they did not you would not be here…

“It is possible that Haldirin really has seen another elfling in the Winter Garden, meleth.”


Next day Tindómë asked Éowyn if there was anyone, around the manor house in its surrounding town, who might provide her with some fine wool for her knitting; occasioning a visit by both to the linen mistress for the household.

Rohirric women knitted, but Gondorian ones were like the Elves and wove or embroidered – only poor women were employed knitting stockings.

It occurred to Tindómë that the Rohirrim would probably have traditionally followed the herds – and knitting was easily carried. Also, in winter, it took up little space in a crowded house such as Álith’s. Éowyn had not learnt to knit, though – she had embroidered when forced into ‘feminine’ pastimes as a young girl.

However as Tindómë mainly knitted for pleasure (and because it was something that the ellyth weren’t all fabulously good at), the fine lacy patterned shawl she had just completed, and shown to the linen mistress as an indication of what sort of wool she wanted, was much admired with no suggestion that it was an unsuitable hobby for a lady.

In the end discussions about weight, ply, and dyeing methods took up much of the morning, as Tindómë had hoped it would. She had not felt any strong emotion through her bond with Rumil, but was still curious to hear of his morning spent with Haldirin in the Winter Garden.

“I… it is hard to describe, meleth,” he began, slowly, once they were alone.

“But I do not think Haldirin was imagining things, or simply making up stories to amuse himself.”

Tindómë waited.

“The garden was as it would usually be. The water from the fountain flowed into the pool, the flowering plants were at rest, all the trees were in leaf. And yet… after a few moments Haldirin said ‘See, Ada?’ and I felt as if I almost could.”

“Almost could what?”

“Almost see the frost and the ice. I could still see everything as it is, and yet I could also see… the ghost of the winter.”

Tindómë thought she could understand, and as Rumil took her face in his hands and then touched his forehead against hers she could see what he meant with her mind’s eye.

“Then Haldirin turned to a far corner of the garden and smiled. ‘My friend!’ he said, but if I turned the same way I could see nothing. I realised, though,” Rumil continued, “that as I looked to the corner, the fountain, at the edge of my sight, seemed to slow and freeze. And so I looked back to the fountain, which then seemed to be flowing again – but in the corner of my vision I could, just, see a small shape. It seemed to be an elfling, meleth.”

“Elo! So he really does meet another elfling there! Or,” another thought crossed Tindómë’s mind, “his imagination is so strong that you see what he imagines, because of your bond to him…”

“There is something else, well more than one other thing… I told Haldirin to ask what the other elfling’s name was. He spoke; and then he waited as if listening. I heard… something – perhaps a breeze sighing in the trees – except that it was totally still within the Winter Garden. Then he turned back and asked me if I had heard.

“I said, truthfully, that I could not make out the words and so Haldirin told me what the other elfling had answered. The elfling said that it was so long since anyone had called him by his name that he had forgotten it, meleth.”

“Oh. That really isn’t the sort of thing a baby like Haldirin would make up, is it?” Tindómë said, slowly. “And what was the other thing?”

“I told Haldirin that I would sit and draw whilst he played with his friend. I tried to draw the garden as it looked when I was not looking at it… Haldirin seemed to be making snowballs. Then he said his friend had gone – and he held out his hand for me to take and walk with him. His hand was very, very cold.”

“Elbereth! A ghost elfling, do you think, herven-nín?”

“I do not know. Would a ghost bring their own winter? A winter that made an elfling cold? I know little of ghosts, meleth. But the elfling in the garden is not harming Haldirin, and so we have time to think about it.”


meleth; beloved.
herven-nín - my husband.


The BtVS characters do not belong to me, but are used for amusement only. All rights remain the property of Mutant Enemy, Joss Whedon, and the original TV companies. The same is true of the LotR characters for whom all rights remain the property of the estate of JRR Tolkien and the companies responsible for the production of the films.
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